Americans Want Hybrids As Long As They Don't Cost Nuthin'S

It turns out that a majority of Americans surveyed in a recent J.D. Power & Associates study are very enthusiastic about hybrid technology...until they find out that they have to pay for it. Continuing a long history of having cake and eating it too, 72% of consumers said they were interested in hybrid technology independent of cost. When a $5,000 cost was included in the equation, the number of respondents who were interested dropped to 46%. When consumers discovered that hybrids weren't available at Wal-Mart, interest plummeted into the single digits.

Not surprisingly, technologies not readily available in the U.S. didn't fare well on the study. For example, clean diesel engines barely registered a blip, in large part because they're just entering the market. Said Mike Marshall, director of the study: "The mere fact that they'll be in the marketplace is going to raise the awareness level of clean diesel, and I think that will begin to crack some of these wrong perceptions of what diesel is today."

While clean diesel is already chosen by a majority of European buyers, it remains to be seen whether economies of scale allow it to be implemented in the States at a lower price premium than that found on hybrids; new offerings from VW, Mercedes, and even Honda in the next 12 months should provide some insight into diesel pricing strategy. Additionally, as hybrid sales numbers rise, the same economies of scale should allow prices to fall. But, for either to happen, first some folks have to pony up the premium. Chicken, meet egg.
[Automotive News (Sub. Req.)]